Earnhardt continues to be the one to beat

Earnhardt continues to be the one to beat

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. charted the fastest lap in final practice for the Daytona 500. Earnhardt toured the superspeedway with a fast lap of 190.416 mph. After a miserable week for the DEI teams, it was sweet justice fpr Earnhardt to once again have...

Dale Earnhardt, Jr. charted the fastest lap in final practice for the Daytona 500. Earnhardt toured the superspeedway with a fast lap of 190.416 mph.

After a miserable week for the DEI teams, it was sweet justice fpr Earnhardt to once again have found the horsepower that makes him so irrepressible at restrictor plate race tracks. He is the defending winner of this event.

"We were just real bad on the handling," said Earnhardt of his car on Thursday. "I hadn't had a bad problem handling wise yet, and today it surfaced pretty big. Had a fast car, but a little loose in the corner. We'll have to work on it. Tires get real terrible after about 20 laps. Guys will probably be coming in for four tires any chance they get."

Dale Earnhardt Jr..
Photo by Eric Gilbert.

Earnhardt will take the green flag from the fifth starting position on Sunday.

"We've had a better car every day," Earnhardt said. "We did get a lot of stuff from the motor department such as intakes and that. For tomorrow, we're going to try to get that new motor worked in, make sure we're happy with it and get going for Sunday."

Jeremy Mayfield, touring the track in the new Dodge Charger, grabbed the second-fastest time, turning a lap of 190.271 mph.

"We said after the Twins that we had to get it better for Sunday," said Mayfield. "We've done that."

Third place was secured by Elliott Sadler, who posted a lap of 190.215 mph. This was a welcome recovery for Sadler, who had transmission issues in the Twin qualifying races and will start back in the pack in the 39th slot.

"If we learned anything during last season with the new championship format, it's that teams are coming out loaded for bear trying to win races," Sadler said. "I think we are going to see some teams that weren't in the top 10 last year step up and have breakout seasons, just as we did last year.

"Winning a couple of races during the season is crucial to making the Chase because there just isn't much room for error if you want to stay in the top 10 all season - as we did in 2004."

Ken Schrader and Jamie McMurray complete the top five fastest times.

The Hendrick power houses of Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon who were expected to light up the sky at Speedweeks this year didn't make much of a splash during 'happy hour'. Johnson was 14th quickest and Gordon 27th.

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Ken Schrader , Jimmie Johnson , Jamie McMurray , Eric Gilbert , Elliott Sadler